ANA CONFERENCE OPENS TO POOR ATTENDANCE

Some Cite Company Cutbacks and Reticence to Pay Trip Expenses

By Published on .

Most Popular
NAPLES, Fla. (Adage.com) -- A year after canceling its annual convention due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Association of National Advertisers hosted
Photo: Ritz-Carlton
Some suggested that cost concerns prevented many from making the trip to the conference at the posh Ritz-Carlton. Here, the hotel's pool and cabana.
its 92nd meeting here -- but with far fewer delegates than in years past.

No-show s
Despite boasting a delegation of 400, the association's own printed roster totaled just 251, and the winner of its Goldstein Award was a no-show. Depsite a growing din of complaints by marketers over the lack of top-tier support for brand building, client-side marketers were the minority. Only 54 people from 42 national advertisers made the trip to the Ritz-Carlton here. Ad agencies and media sales people comprised the remainder.

In his opening remarks, ANA President John Sarsen said that when the association canceled last year's event, "we forfeited one of the most important experiences our industry offers." He tried to remain upbeat about the attendance, saying he was delighted with the conference, but conceded, "there's a low level of optimism about the economy."

Travel expenses
Repeat attendees suggested the low showing stemmed from cutbacks and an unwillingness to pay travel expenses when stock prices have tanked.

Barbara Ford, vice president of advertising for Kraft

Photo: Ritz-Carlton
One of the seven restaurants at the Ritz.
Foods, rated the conference attendance as good, "given it could have been no attendance." With smaller staffs and increased workloads, "it's harder and harder to find the time to be away from the office. That makes forums like these that much more valuable" as a way of "getting ideas from other companies and media and for making connections," she said.

Agency representatives were less charitable about the compromised networking.

"This is a fabulous convention if you're interested in buying time on the Super Bowl ... really good rates on the Super Bowl," said Mark Goldstein, chief marketing officer of Publicis Groupe's Fallon Worldwide, Minneapolis. "There are more media people than waiters."

Serious problems
Jeff Johnson, president-CEO of WestWayne, Atlanta, agreed. "I hope that the fact that there are so few people here is a good thing -- and that people have finally woken up and realized how serious the problems are," he said. "The people who really make me mad are the ones who say that they're waiting for the economy to get better -- they'll keep waiting. Most of our clients seem to have realized that things can get worse."

James Stengel, global marketing officer of Procter & Gamble Co. and a new ANA board member, said he didn't know if the lower attendance stemmed from internal budget cuts, timing or quality of the conference.

In this article: